Browsing Tag

Emily Rapp

Beating Fear with a Stick, Inspiration

Listen: This Is Your LIfe.

February 24, 2013

I am about to drown. There’s a tidal wave. I am in someone’s house or apartment and the ocean is rushing through windows and walls. There’s water rising. The fear is imminent. I am about to die.

I wake up. Sometimes I am soaked from sweating in my sleep and sometimes I am upright in my bed as if I’d never even laid down to begin with a few hours prior, as if I simply sat in bed with closed eyes and let the water come charging at me. As if I said I don’t need to lie down to drown.

Sometimes I wake shivering. When you sweat in your sleep you wake up freezing. A wet dog.

Maybe the water wasn’t actually my sweat. Maybe my dreams are so powerful that they sneak through whatever dream-barrier exits and enter my body like a thief. I taste it to double check. It’s salty. Sea water? Sweat? Who’s to say?

I wake up before I die each time. I remember those old myths I would hear as a kid. You can’t die in your dreams. I don’t know. Who’s to say? I am mostly drowning in them.

The cliché gets to me. How can I have such an uninteresting clichéd recurring nightmare? I am ashamed of my mind’s lack of creativity when it comes to this.

I’ve had this dream, or a version of this dream for as long as I can remember. I’m drowning.

I don’t understand where all this water is coming from or how I can stop it from swallowing me. I don’t understand the sky or the sea or which is which in these dreams. I look up and down but there are no clues as to which is the sky and which is not. It doesn’t matter. It’s after me.

Last night, as my husband kissed me, I started to have a panic attack. Babe! I snapped, are you trying to suffocate me? My heart started beating and I felt the water rising. I was dying and he wouldn’t stop until I pushed him away. I felt horrible immediately but the drowning was real I am not sure what would have happened if I hadn’t pushed him away.

His best friend and cousin died last week, the same day as Ronan. Ronan was 2 and a half and Amir was in his fifties. Ronan had been suffering and his parents had been watching him die for 2 years. Amir was driving a tow truck and had had a heart attack. He died before he crashed it into a parked car, his wife, in St. Louis, sat waiting for him to text him back.

I wasn’t there for my husband (or for Ronan’s mother Emily Rapp) as I was leading my retreat in Maui but I know it was incredibly hard for him. The wife flew out and wailed in his arms as he drove them around the city and to the coroner’s office and to eat Persian sandwiches in Westwood.

So last night, when he was kissing me, I got that he was expressing his relief that I was still a person in the world. That I had not gone and he would prove it by smothering me. I felt bad for saying that to him and he said Well, I was smothering you a bit.

He was.

The thing is, I always have a problem with kissing. I used to think it was an intimacy thing but it’s not. I don’t know what I believe in when it comes to past lives but I feel like I can’t breathe when someone’s mouth is on mine. I am dying. Water is rushing at me and I am falling into a pillow or there is a pillow on my face and finally Oh My God! I can’t breathe!

Don’t read into it too much. I wasn’t sexually abused or anything like that. I have to be kissed in just the right most perfect way so that I don’t feel like I am drowning.

Hugging makes me feel safe and kissing makes me feel like dying most of the time.

I woke up feeling so guilty this morning. Apologizing over coffee. Hugging my husband. Kissing his face. My husband understands me and hopefully didn’t take it personally but it was a pure unadulterated panic attack last night. The sea water was in my throat. My lungs collapsed. I was gone.

Why do we take on so much all the time? So many things that don’t belong to us. So many oceans.

That ocean rushing at me business, that’s my life. I think it’s going to eat me sometimes. Or sometimes I think I am trying to swallow it all at once and you absolutely cannot do that. It’s too much. You have to pause and breathe.

And breathe.

And breathe.

So maybe there is no past life drowning and no claustrophobia. Maybe there is just I am not breathing because if I breathe this will all go away or if I breathe this will all come so fast and I won’t be able to control it.

You cannot control the ocean.

I save myself in my tidal waves dream but oftentimes I can’t save my sister or my mom. My dad is never in them. I don’t know if it means I have forgotten him or that he doesn’t need saving. Regardless, he is absent. I save myself but I cannot save my family from the ocean.

You cannot control the ocean or the life or the family.

You cannot save anyone.

I shoot up in my bed and feel my arms and they are there and my husband’s body and he is awake because I am awake. I’ve had a nightmare. Everyone is drowning. I can’t save anyone.

The magic words: I love you. You are not drowning. You are safe. Do not worry about anything. You are safe he says.

Yesterday I sent out a newsletter which wasn’t really a newsletter but rather my essay I had written on the plane Friday night called What Will Never Go Up In Smoke. It went viral on Facebook and I thought I would share with my mailing list. I got some heartfelt and beautiful responses. One woman said that my writing always made her want to do better. (Wow!) Then, I got an email from someone in the spiritual community that simply said one word. Unsubscribe. (Wow!)

And there it is. I am about to drown. There’s a tidal wave. I am in someone’s house or apartment and the ocean is rushing through windows and walls. There’s water rising. The fear is imminent. I am about to die. I can’t wake up because I am awake.

I am awake.

I breathe. I breathe and after a while the fear is gone. The hurt is there but the fear is gone. It didn’t kill me, that one little word. It felt mean and hurtful but I didn’t die. I sat staring at my phone feeling embarrassed but I didn’t die. I pinched myself a little and it was as it always was: I was human. I was still there on my bed, my messy blankets and pillows and books and I was still human. I hadn’t been turned to stone by that word nor had it suffocated me.

The fear must have gotten trapped in my body as it was looking for a way out. Last night when my husband was kissing me and I felt like I was drowning, it was because the fear had nowhere to go.

My body was afraid it would always know that fear.

But then he is saying You are safe.

And I was. I was in my bed, safe. And the word unsubscribe was just a word and the ocean was 9 blocks away and anyone I love has to save themselves and fear is a goddamned bastard.

The imminent fear. Of drowning. Of people not surviving. Of what others think. Of breathing. Of living. Of dying. It’s everywhere, really. If you look.

It’s as big as the ocean and beyond and it will get you if you stop paying attention.

Listen: that is your breath. Listen: that is my breath. Listen: that is the wind.

Listen. This is your life.

f5966a7882b33712e2503dd86cc4ec5c_large

Little Seal, loss, love, poetry

The Art of Losing.

February 12, 2013

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Jen Pastiloff.

 The art of losing isn’t hard to master;

so many things seem filled with the intent

to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster

of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:

places, and names, and where it was you meant 

to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

 ~Elizabeth Bishop from One Art

I read this poem in my yoga class tonight. It’s been calling me so I went and picked it up.

So many things lost. My friend’s baby is dying and tonight when I asked her what I could do for her she simply said curse the fucking world that would do this to a baby.

I have.

Oh, have you seen it? I have slipped. I have lost my yoga-teachery-ness, my belief in you attract every single thing in your life somewhere between Ronan’s deadly diagnosis and my nephew’s rare genetic disorder. Something has been lost.

Ronan is now on medication through a tube taped to his face, but no fluids. He will die most likely in 3-8 days, and so yes, I am cursing the world and I will spare you the photos of him because, most likely, you will curse the world too. The fucking world that would do this to a baby.

When things like this happen (as if they can be categorized as things like this) we lose the piece of ourselves that speaks in platitudes, that says everything happens for a reason. Because really it doesn’t.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master. Oh Elizabeth Bishop. So wise. 

I’ve mastered it. After Emily loses her son Ronan she will have mastered it. (Hell, she’s a master already.) There are a lot of us masters out here in the world. 

We are a tribe of masters.

I think of my grandfather alone in his old row house in South Philadelphia. The same house my mom and aunts were raised in and the same house he has lived in for 65 years when he wasn’t off in another country. It’s dark and now referred to as the “ghetto” but after my grandmother died a year and a half ago, my mother went there and cleaned it up. She painted and cleaned and hung photos and dusted and took plastic off sofas. It looked nice.

My grandfather spent most of his life in the navy. He loves to talk about it. He has books, yearbooks they remind me of, and he sits down next to his guitar and shows me them. He points to faces and maps.

The first time I went to LA, was on a Greyhound bus in 1942 when we all moved to Hayward, California. That was a long crowded trip from Effingham, Illinois to LA then up to Hayward.

I lived there till I joined the navy in 1943. Worked at Hunts cannery and a place called Gillig Bus Company. They made busses out of truck chassis. I also worked 5 nights and Saturday and Sunday at a skating rink….I was the floor manager and was a really good roller skater then.

We used to cash our paychecks and they would give most of it in real silver dollars then, they would be worth a lot of money now. And when I was stationed in Pearl Harbor  in Hawaii in 1944 we used to get paid with 2 dollar bills with H A W A I I printed across them. That was to show the complaining civilians how much money the military contributed to their economy. It seemed to work.

Do you have any of those?  I interrupt him. 

(I used to have some myself, Pop but I’ve lost them. I used to have loads of silver dollars and $2 dollar bills. I don’t have any now.)

That was when Hawaii was only one of the territories. I was only making about $50 or $60 per month then, so it wasn’t very practical to save the $2 bills. 2 or 3 bucks would pay for a night in Honolulu and sandwich before going back to the tent city in a mosquito infested cane field where we lived. Some fond memories. The mosquitos there were at least as big as humming birds and sounded like model airplanes in flight. I remember one night that 2 mosquitos landed on my bunk and one said “shall we eat him here or take him back with”  the other said “no, we better eat him here because if we take him back, the big ones might take him away from us.”

(Oh Pop, you’re making that up.)

So many things lost, so many memories, so many $2 dollar bills and silver dollars.

I wonder if I can find all the things I have lost. Do they come back or is that it? Just like that, gone.

The answer: gone.

I hope I didn’t make you want to stop reading, but it’s true. My grandmother died and she is lost to my grandfather although I am sure when he fell in the bathtub last month he called out for her. He was alone and sat there naked on the floor of the tub for hours, his head bleeding before he somehow reached the phone and dialed 9-1-1.

But, do you think he called for her?

Damn straight. And when they had to pick broken pieces of tile out of his head I am sure he called for her or at least wished for her even though she drove him crazy with her complaints and crosswords, he called for her because who else do you call for?

Why?

Habit? Yes.

Wishful thinking? Yes.

Love? Yes.

Fear? Yes.

Desperation? Yes.

It’s all I know? Yes.

All of it.

Look, when we lose things and we become masters it’s not like that means we accept it. It doesn’t mean we don’t pound our heads against the tiles and watch the blood drip down into the drain as we shiver and cry. It doesn’t mean that just because we are masters at losing that we like that or that we even know what that means.

You think Emily knows what life will be like post-Ronan? No. She doesn’t. Yet and still, she is a master.

The loss has already entered her and the silver dollars will never be recovered. The mosquitoes have made their way in and gnawed through everything.

There is nothing left but still the loss is insurmountable and unknowable and being a master means nothing.

It means you know how to bury someone or watch them die or get old or not get old but it doesn’t mean you are free. You were once a roller skater, true, but that holds no weight now at this moment in the bathtub with your head bleeding like that.

Like Bishop said: it takes practice. Practice losing father, losing faster. To which I say: No. Enough is enough is enough. I am done losing. So many things lost. So many keys and years and people. Enough. I needn’t any more practice. We may be masters but we are not lost.

This is an art that doesn’t take years to hone. It takes a minute (maybe less), or however long it decides when it takes what it is going to take, but let me tell you this: being a master isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

I’d trade it on for the baby’s fat arms, for the silver dollars, for the father lying on the couch in his cutoffs, for the chromosone not to be missing. I’d become all woo-woo for you and yea, everything happens for a reason and you get what you deserve if you’d give the title “Master” to another. But that “another” would always be me. I see that. There is no this or that, me not you, you not me, your kid not mine, my kid not yours. The Masters is no insider exclusive club. There is no discrimination. It is all of us.

We are all the Masters.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that's it! Summer or Fall 2015. It is LIFE CHANGING!

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that’s it! Summer or Fall 2015. It is LIFE CHANGING!

 

 

 
 
courage, Jen Pastiloff, Jen's Musings

Roar.

January 18, 2013

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

By Jen Pastiloff.

Lie to me. 

That’s what I might have well have said by saying I don’t look like I gained any weight, right? It’s going to be okay, isn’t it? You are not having sex with anyone else, right? 

Tell me what I think I want to hear.

Some people like it straight. They want to be told what is. They want what is and what can be without any embellishments or I will make you feel betters. State the facts, please.

Not me.

I want to be appeased. Make me believe I am safe.

Recently, I decided that the truth is a much better version of the truth than a lie.

In my late twenties I had this boyfriend, the one who wouldn’t let himself be called “boyfriend”. I loved this not-boyfriend boyfriend . I went on the birth control pill for this not-boyfriend boyfriend. We’d been together a year, albeit a year where I was unsure of my standing with him beyond the fact that I knew I loved him and that he made me feel like I was crazy. Birth control pills meant no more condoms and that made the not-boyfriend boyfriend happy.

The first thing I remember about the garbage bag incident that red wrapper invading me with its plastic face. Everywhere I looked: red. His carpet, red, the inside of my eyelids, red. The (unfortunately for him) clear plastic trash bag had fallen over. Inside, grays and whites of innocent I will not hurt you trash, and then there it was: a Lifestyles condom stuck to a chicken take-out container. Nothing but the torn red of the wrapper visible through the clear plastic trash bag.

Of course I will take out the garbage on my way out.

The significance of images, powerful enough to place two people right there inside my mind, naked on a bed. Maybe they’re in a dark room, the blue glow of the television bobbing on the wall. The woman with him (not me), imagined as perfect and leggy.

And then there he was on top of me. All I could see were red Lifestyle wrappers like sheep jumping fences. Rows of them. One condom, two condom, three…

 

(Wow, all that work you’re doing, for nothing! All that huffing and grunting

and straining and pushing and pulling and I am not even here with you. I am an eyeball in a trash bag searching for clues of infidelity.) 

 I am lying to you. I am not here. Only my body is.

But as long as you have my body here, does it matter that you don’t have my mind too? 

I wondered how many women lied in this way? Making love to someone with their body

while their mind drifts I’m fat, who else is he having sex with, what can I eat for dinner? I wonder what time the movie starts, do I even love this guy? I wish he would hurry up, why would he want to have sex with anyone but me? Why don’t I satisfy him, Am I not enough? I’m not good enough for him, what’s wrong with me? I’m fat. Shit, I never called my mother back. I have to remember to pay the electric bill., Damn it, is he done yet? I am good enough for him, he’s not good enough for me….. No, not like that, like this!  I can’t even say that to him because he will get offended. Maybe I should try being with a woman. No, I couldn’t do that. He is such a selfish lover. I wonder what time it is, I wonder if I could fit into those jeans? Did I shut the stove? What day is it? Do I smell bad? I wonder if he thinks I smell bad? He smells kind of musty. It’s so gross when a guy smells bad. Is he done yet? Man, what is he doing? Does he think he is King Kong? Why does he play so many video games still? What? Is he five? I’m tired, Ouch, that hurts, what is he doing? I wonder if they have a class for men to become better lovers at The Learning Annexx?

His eyes, red burning slits. All I could see was that condom wrapper. Obsessed by a red remnant that was most certainly not my remnant, I couldn’t move. I was that paralyzed with not wanting to know the truth. You love me, right? You love me, right? Right? You love me?

My mind can be made to believe anything.

I’d known this all my life but the trash bag incident finalized it for me. Everywhere I looked I waited to be convinced of  I love yous and You’re safes and nothing bad will happens and I am not going anywheres.

My face in his pillow (do I smell another woman? Whose hair is that lying there?) The red wrapper actually turned into a body and that body turned into his body and his body in someone else’s body. Metamorphosis. Isn’t this, the chain of events, absolutely astounding?

How quickly the mind latches on to what it wants to believe is the truth. How little it takes to seal the deal.

You love me, right?

This logical procession of things is survival of the fittest. Except the fittest know how to survive, they know how to dispose of any evidence instead of asking me to pick it up with my own two small trembling fists. The fittest aren’t as stupid as you I thought as I waited to be convinced that the condom wasn’t his, that he didn’t know how it got there, that he swore it, that he loved me and was sorry.

I used to think reality was relative and irrelevant. Tell me what I want to hear. Tell me it wasn’t yours. Make me believe. 

Mine, and perhaps yours too, is a mind that filters everything through a vicious process of hypothetical situations, of beautifully formed sentences, of what ifs. Images left in a room of the brain to ferment will create an alternate universe where no matter what time it was with my not-boyfriend the time in my head was a red red world where he was having sex with someone other than me.

You love me, right? It wasn’t yours, right?

That really was the end of the not-relationship although it probably ended before that if I don’t lie to you. Of course he convinced me that it hadn’t been his condom. That it had been old or that it was his cousin’s and I’d nodded and said okay and shook from the I’m going be sick adrenaline in my body but I’d stayed. And I stayed. 

 

And for as much as I wanted him to lie to me to make me feel better in the moment, I’d known the truth all along. 

We always know the truth.

If he hadn’t lied, if he’d just said Yes, yes it’s mine and I am sleeping with someone else. Or, aren’t you at least glad I am using protection? I would have had to leave him. The lies gave me permission to stay. They gave me permission to hate myself more. The lies got me off the hook.

I am writing this from an airplane where I get some of my best (read: distraction free) writing done. I just ran into a man on the plane, who, along with his wife, sent me to Atlanta 6 years ago to visit my nephew when he was newborn and in the NICU. There were complications and he was having his little tiny blonde head scanned. He couldn’t eat. He was floppy. I didn’t even know what a floppy baby was back then. He might not survive were words nobody wanted to speak. They’d been my regulars at the restaurant where I’d worked for years. As I walked away with tears streaming down my face to get their Arnold Palmers they’d decided they would send me to Atlanta the next day. You have to be with your family. No discussion will be had. I simply had to say yes, they’d said over turkey sandwiches. And so I did.

Six years ago I went and held my sweet floppy buddy for the first time, once he was released from the hospital in Georgia.

 When I walked onto the plane this morning, the husband was on the flight, because you know, the world is really quite small like that. It’s so small that people who did for you the kindest things will pop up on airplanes Houston. He’d tried to jog my memory as if it needed jogging. As if I could ever forget them and what they did for me when I was a destitute waitress with a sick nephew. He kindly asked So, everything turned out okay then? With your nephew?

The lies. The lies when he was born and until he was two years old, when he finally got diagnosed with Prader Willi Syndrome and Autism. The subtle lies. The bold faced ones. To ourselves mainly. He is just taking his time. All babies develop differently. He’s fine. 

 When of course we knew. But how much safer it felt to be nestled inside a world where there is nothing wrong then thrown out into the wolves and the world of missing chromosomes. The wolves would eat us. Let’s stay safe. The baby’s fine. There is nothing wrong. He is healthy. Swimming with sharks was safer than telling the lies, but what did we know? We were scared, and I, for one, was used to lying to myself. It was not a foreign country. It was home.

I’d said to the kind husband It did turn out there was something. He has a rare genetic disorder. That is actually where I am going now. It’s hard, but he’s doing great. I will never forget what you and your wife did for me back then. I think of you all the time.

We hugged and took a photo together and I thought about how many people have done kind things for me along the way and how many untruths I have told myself about not deserving them.

Watching my friend Emily Rapp deal with the impending death of her baby boy I see how liberating the truth really is.

She could flail her arms and curse God and fate and Tay Sachs. She could tell lies about herself and her luck and what is in store for her (she might do this on occasion, she is a human being, after all) but the truth is what seems to keep her tethered. Without the truth she would float away into You’ll get over its and He’s going to be in a better place and everything happens for a reason. 

The truth of what is happening now and now and now. 

That is all there is.

She, nor any of us, knows what is going to happen beyond his death and that is the truest true. What keeps her writing and breathing are the sure facts of what is true now and now and now. In the moments her son has a tube in his nose for medication and some fluids. In the moments he sleeps and in the moments he is choking and in the moments she sits down to write when maybe all she wants to do is beat her fist at the sky and scream but she writes anyway.

If you face what is so, you will be the roar that wakes up the sun. You will be the day and the night and then the day again because it is the one thing no one can take away from you. The truth of what is will make you the strongest mountain lion. 

The truth will set you free some say. The truth hurts.

I don’t know, I think lies will set you free too. They will unglue you so much that you will have no idea who you are anymore as you float above everyone else with your own set of facts and knowledge. The lies hurt more than the truth but in that slow and painful death kind of way. 

The truth hurts too, at times. But, it’s what keeps you knowing this one very important fact: who you are. The fact of who you are in the world.

The truth was that I was a girl who didn’t love herself enough to leave someone who hurt her again and again. The lie was that it was all I deserved. The truth was that my nephew has a chromosome missing and he could possibly eat himself to death if not carefully watched and cared for. The lie was that nothing was wrong. The truth is that Emily loves her son and that yes, he will die. The lie is that anyone knows what that means for her or for him.

We think we are protecting ourselves when we lie to ourselves or when we have someone lie to us. Oh, our sweet unquiet minds, so prone to crave safety. So willing to cling to what is not real, to trade in lovers who don’t love us, missing chromosomes, death.

11 years ago my childhood friend came out to California to visit me after having hiked the Appalachian trail for 6 months by himself. I remember thinking it was the craziest thing I had ever heard, and also being slightly jealous because I knew I didn’t have the balls to do that at the time.

I might have the balls now.

I am the mountain lion.

I have finally been able to turn on the light and invite it in. The Truth, shivering and lonely. And unafraid. 

My friend had told me he’d started with a huge backpack and that by the end it was almost empty. All the weight he’d shed during the hike. He said he’d gone to find himself and I remember thinking at the time that I didn’t know any guys that talked like that. Find himself? Find the truth?

I asked him how he’d managed though, at the end, with almost nothing in his pack? Didn’t he need stuff?

Nothing is lost when you dump the untruths. It’s the letting go, the starting out with so much weight and ending up with water and a sleeping bag.

The truth is your sleeping bag. It’s your water.

It’s what carries you the rest of the way from here.

It’s what says Yes, I do love you and I have been here all along. Waiting.

It’s what takes your quivering body lying there in the corner of your kitchen floor and picks it up. It’s what turns you into the strongest mountain lion.

Speak the truth. 

You know what? Fuck that.

Roar.

 

 

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it's magical.

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2016 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it’s magical.

 The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for the next cleanse on November 30th. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the holiday season. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.


The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for the next cleanse on November 30th. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the holiday season. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

Ring in New Years 2016 with Jen Pastiloff at her annual Ojai retreat. It’s magic! It sells out quickly so book early. No yoga experience required. Just be a human being. With a sense of humor. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com with questions or click photo to book. NO yoga experience needed. Just be a human being

Ring in New Years 2016 with Jen Pastiloff at her annual Ojai retreat. It’s magic! It sells out quickly so book early. No yoga experience required. Just be a human being. With a sense of humor. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com with questions or click photo to book. NO yoga experience needed. Just be a human being

 

Little Seal, loss, love

Dirt.

January 10, 2013

I am sharing this again because it is so dear to me. Please read this. Please send Ronan love and prayers that he is not scared when he passes. He is a the end of his little life. Love you guys. Thanks for reading this one. Please share it.

The Land Of Enchantment.

A couple days ago, we took a road trip.

Emily, Ronan, and me. Two-year-old Ronan, packed in the back, his small, floppy head propped up with stuffed animals and socks, his face reflected in a crooked, little mirror, so Emily, his mom, could look into it every so often as she drove in case he had a seizure or stopped breathing.

Tay Sachs has its hold on this little boy. This perfect little boy making cooing noises in the back seat as we marveled at trees and patterns of light and talked about what it means to be happy and how even when you are happy, you are still a little bit sad.

Or at least I am.

Our first stop after we left Santa Fe was the The Chimayo Sanctuario.

It was hot when we stepped out of the car, hotter than it has been in Santa Fe. Gusts of warm wind blowing my dress around in a way that would normally make me laugh and feel sexy and silly, but this day, I immediately felt tired and wanted to lie down in the little outdoor church area. Growing up as a Jew, at least until I was eight, I didn’t really know what to call that little area, but I knew I wanted to lay my head down on it and rest as people walked by and snapped pictures or prayed. Some smoked cigarettes, which felt somehow unholy given the heat.

Emily had told me as we walked that Chimayo was the meth capital of the world. I watched the smokers in front of us and wondered what meth felt like. I didn’t really want to know, but we were in the capital and the heat made me tired and curious.

Emily had said that she loved Chimayo and that it had holy dirt.

She had me at holy dirt.

My hearing had been especially horrendous during this trip. As if there are things here that mustn’t be heard. Things of loss and heat and dirt and dying babies. Most of the things she told me during this visit I only half-heard, so maybe when she said holy dirt, she didn’t say that at all.

But there is holy dirt here indeed!

We entered the church and sat in the back. The art on the walls somehow reminded me of my mother, so I kept whispering to Emily how my mom would love it here. It was vibrant and colorful, its beauty simple and poor-looking. I knew my mom would love the folk art like Emily did. We traced our fingers over the woodcarvings and the blue of the pregnant bellies.

There were a few old women up front praying, their mouths repeating the same shapes over and over. Although I did not know what they were saying, I knew that they were deep in reverie, deep in connection, somehow sitting on the bench and yet also floating somewhere with a dead relative or baby or Jesus himself. Who knows? They were in a trance but also somehow aware of us as we walked by, enough that they smiled with their eyes and part of their lips without stopping the flow of prayer. It was like a magic trick. I felt weird to stare yet I did.

I mean, I suppose I went in there to pray in some way, although I didn’t know it until we walked through the door.

I didn’t even know what Chimayo was until we got there. But these women were praying with every ounce of their bodies, like they were born to do this and had waited in a long line of life events that included births and deaths to get here. I was just hoping Ronan wouldn’t suffer and that Emily would be okay. I didn’t even have a real prayer. I just quietly looked over at them and then to the front of the jaw-dropping gorgeous New Mexican church and sent a wish out to the Jesus statue in whatever language I could muster.

I think I put my hands together in prayer, like I do when I teach yoga, and asked him in sign language “Please let Ronan feel nothing. Please let Emily feel something.” 

We went to the room where the holy dirt was, and it clearly said No Pictures, but, naturally, being me, I took a few. I am like a thief when it comes to inspiration. Whether words or images, if I see it and it touches that place where things are born, I must capture it.

I took some photos and then Emily went in and scooped up some holy dirt and put it on Ronan’s sweaty head and his little feet where she had painted his toenails a gold, glittery color. I went in and did the same. I also took a little baggy of it for my sister or anyone else who needed holy dirt. Who knows, maybe I needed it?

We went into the Vigil Shop where they sold popsicles and chile and souvenirs. (They even ship chile! The sign out front boasted.)

We agreed, as we stood under a tree for a moment of relief from the sun, that the land felt different here.

I felt much like I do in Ojai, California, where I lead many of my yoga retreats. More connected to the land, more inspired and awake, like there was a current running through me that had been asleep but, upon stepping in holy dirt, was reignited. Like I became a person again after a long time of forgetting how to be.

Chimayo felt sacred in the way that The Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris did in July, when I went to see where Jim Morrison was buried, not because I wanted to, but because I was dragged. I went with my childhood babysitter, with whom I had been reunited after her only son, age nineteen, was killed in a drunk driving accident last August. It was her greatest wish to see Jim Morrison’s grave. I was annoyed at having to go, especially because it was half-raining, I was sick, and we got lost, but once we got there, it was like nothing else. All the tombs like little houses, each different from the next in the most beautiful ways. I wanted to lie down on them and see what it felt like—not in morbid way, but rather to be connected to such beauty. Rarely have I seen such beauty associated with death.

I felt like that in Chimayo—far from Paris, Jim Morrison’s grave, and Ojai but with the vast knowledge that the holy dirt was the same. If I tasted it in Paris or California, or if I knelt down in that little room in Chimayo, it would all taste the same. I would be healed or I wouldn’t, but it would be the same. I wasn’t really far from beauty wherever I was in the world at any given moment.

We carried on to Taos, and I remembered the first time I had been there.

I drove across the country with my mother, sister, and best friend at the time. I remember eating tuna fish from a can in the back seat and alternating drivers. I remember the colors in New Mexico being so different from what I knew growing up in New Jersey and California. In Taos, I had a flood of memories, which is good because I am writing a book, but I had to shake them off to be present for Ronan. What if this is the last time I see him? 

Emily says maybe it will be, or maybe not. No expectations is what she is working on. No expectations of what his death will be like, whether or not she should travel to Germany for a week in October (because it could as easily happen while she is teaching or at the store). No expectations of what life will be like after.

As we sat in the chapel, Emily told me of the pilgrimage people make to come to Chimayo, the last mile or two on their hands and knees so they arrive bloody to the church for their penance. I was in disbelief that people still did this sort of thing but also in awe at the sheer will and belief in what is possible, in miracles and magic and holy dirt.

There were children’s shoes and booties everywhere, left as offerings, which made me feel sad as I sat there with Ronan because he would never wear shoes to walk or run or to look cool for a girl on a first date.

He would never walk or crawl on his hands and knees to make a pilgrimage.

That’s when I decided that I would make one for him. That actually that is what we were doing out there in the hot New Mexican sun as we walked on bridges and stood in churches and sat in cars.

Here we were, eating holy dirt and driving through The Rio Grande Gorge as we listened to bad music. We sang out loud, and it was all for him. It was all so we could keep giving him these particular pieces of ourselves, these grains of holy dirt, to take with him wherever it was he was going.

~~~

Please order Emily Rapp’s book. It will be out in March. I just finished it and WOW. Click here.

377855_10151418387848833_312354856_n

Beating Fear with a Stick, Inspiration, my book

I Am Not Afraid.

January 9, 2013
The-Things-That-Get-In-The-Way.
It was the theme of my yoga class this morning. Let’s remove them, I suggested to my beloved class. Their eyes got wide and afraid which I understood very very well.
 
They looked at me as if to say I just wanted to do a couple of downdogs and sweat, why do you have to do this shit, lady?
 
Of starting a new book. Of finding a partner. Of writing. Of becoming a yoga teacher. Of having a baby. Of leaving a partner.  Of traveling. Of quitting a job. Of getting a job.
Of being happy.
 
Those types of Things.
 
But then. But then, I will have nothing to hold me back. The afraid eyes widened.
 
May whatever is holding me back reveal itself. May I have the courage to release them, I suggested to the room before we took our first Ohm.
 
How scary it is to have nothing to hold you back anymore, to be so unencumbered. It is a thing of power and most of us are scared of power in the way we are scared of what we don’t understand: love, aging, death.
 
I was afraid to let go of my label of “anorexic.” Then who will I be? Anorexia was my set of crutches and I walked around town with them under my arms, and a small little limp, just enough to handicap me when it came to making a move in any direction whatsoever. I will not let go of these crutches I demanded as I slept walk through my life. They are mine!
 
I was not above beating people with them either. Anyone who came to close to taking them away from me. These are my Things That Get In The Way. Nobody can touch them! as I poked the offender with the soft end of the crutch. Gently, so it wouldn’t hurt. They would know I still loved them but that they could not take my crutch away.
 
What things get in the way of the small pleasures that wait for you when you wake up in the morning? Before your eyes can focus on the lampshade or on the other body in the bed, what things enter your mind as if they belong there? What heavy objects knock about in your chest before you even put your jeans on?
 
The things that get in the way are often real things, ordinary things, things that you will forget as soon as you sit down and bite into your sandwich. Then there are the things that are not ordinary, that are so not ordinary in the way that they have caused you to stop and take inventory on your life as you know it. 
 
For example: your baby dying, as is my friend Emily Rapp’s baby, a very real and horrendous thing to have to wait for. It will part the sea of you. One side of you will be on the shore with your baby son, and the other side of you immersed in the sea itself, drowning fast but not fast enough. What is getting in the way of you and your baby is a very real and unspeakable thing and you can’t even move, you are that split in two. Both drowning and not drowning at the same time.
 
Then there are the things that get in the way which are soft and malleable. And still very precise. They know exactly when to get you. They will leave no stone unturned and will leave you to bleed there on the table if you don’t pay attention. They know that right there, first thing in the morning, before your eyes can focus on the lampshade or the other body in the bed, that there’s the best time to get you. They know they can make you scared of what is going to happen to you, of what will people think, what if you can’t have a baby, what if this isn’t what you really want?
 
And your eyes start to come into focus and nothing looks like same. The carpet, the sink, the wall, the other body in the bed. You touch everything to make sure you are awake, and of this you can’t be certain. If you were awake wouldn’t it all make sense?
How you are right where you should be and that there can be no question of that because there is no other option. You were never not here. You were never not going to lead this very life. There is no alternative. As much as you try, you will never be able to wake up and have had a different history. You will always have turned right. You will always have chosen this.
 
So why doesn’t it make sense?
 
Because things have gotten in the way.
You have to grab them by the throat and let them know that you are not afraid. Say it: I am not afraid.
 
Two weeks ago, before I got my glasses in London, I dreamt I’d gone blind. In the dream, I’d felt around for things I would recognize, corners of tables I knew from bumping into them, people I loved and their shoulders and noses. Their smells. I was scared that darkness would be all I would know anymore. As if my own skin were falling over my head in a black hood.
I couldn’t remember what anything looked like in the dream. As if along with my sight, all of my memories vanished too. What a sunset had looked like or my father’s face.
Slowly, it seemed years passed in this dream,  I became unafraid. I started to remember what things had looked like. And they looked more beautiful then they had in real life. The sunset was the kind you swear you’ve never seen anything like it, not ever and my father’s face was real, and he was breathing, his nostrils flaring a little with each exhale. 
 
I’d woken up sweating and cold in our hotel room, but as soon as my eyes started to focus on the lampshade and the other body in the bed, I realized what the dream had been about.
 
That I was not blind. That I could see. That is what the dream meant.

And as soon as I say I am not afraid there’d be nothing in the way.

i__m_not_afraid_anymore_by_patu_
Uncategorized

Let Go Or Be Dragged.

January 5, 2013

I am a fish. A stink ripped fish.

I am like a fish. Maybe an oily carp with a big fat hook stuck in my mouth.

That’s what I feel like when I get hooked. Except, unlike fish, I have no built in mechanism that dissolves the hook. That rusty hook just stays in my mouth and catches on other things, as hooks will tend to do. Its in their nature to catch things.

But I’m not a fish. Let me start over.

I am a human. A woman.

I simply get gut hooked and forget sometimes who I am.

Take today for instance. Someone, I have no idea who, commented on one of my essays that it sounded like I plagiarized Brene Brown. And also I’m tired of the blogs that are suddenly rehashing her research without crediting her work. There’s been an explosion of this since her research on vulnerability and wholeheartedness came out.

Hooked. Baited and hooked.

I read the comment (I should start to get in the habit of not reading them. There will in fact, be loads of people who “hate” my book. I won’t lie and say it won’t bother me so best to just not read them, right?) and right after I read the comment I got in a bad mood. I had been in a great mood before that. I felt the hook dig in and the skin in my cheek rip and bleed all over my day. Ruined. How could she say I plagiarized? I have someone doing that to me and it feels awful. I would never, could never, do this. How and why and how dare she or he or whoever and I love Brene Brown, I would never do that and I am repeating myself

and with a hook stuck in me and who cares anyway?

Pull the hook out. Pull. It. Out. Jennifer.

I remember being obsessed with this one professor I’d had at NYU. He wore leather jackets and washed his hands a lot and he smoked in class. Smoked! And I am not that old. He just smoked. In class. You weren’t allowed, it wasn’t the 70’s or 80’s. But he did it and I sat in the front row and usually had no idea what he was talking about but I had fantasies about him and signed up for his classes again and again. That was where I first learned of the anxiety of influence. The Anxiety of Influence, aside from an idea that permeates my existence, is a book by the esteemed Harold Bloom where he talks in very academic prose about how we are all basically influenced by someone else and that creates anxiety. Yes, he was talking about poets but I would like to suggest it is non-poets as well. It is people. How can we not be influenced, read: inspired, by others. So yes, Mrs. Fisherman who threw a hook in my mouth and then left me to die, I am influenced by Brene Brown but I did not plagiarize her, you nincompoop. What I wrote doesn’t even remotely sound like her. There’s that hook again.

The things that hook me. That hook us. The good, the bad, the ugly.

Look, the things that hook me that are good are what inspires me, and yes, Brene Brown is on that list. I get hooked easily. That’s why I write so damn much. I don’t get thrown back into the river all the time, so I sit at the computer with the hook in my mouth until its in my throat and then, all of a sudden, its gone. Its out in the world and I am better for it.

Then there’s the bad and the ugly. The anxiety. The jealousy. The comparing myself, not only to others but to earlier or different versions of myself. Look how skinny I was back then! Look what she can do! Its bad and ugly because I am not using it to inspire. I am using it to make myself small and pitiful and stinky as a dead fish.

Then there’s the really ugly. What fits in this category: the person who actually is plagiarizing me and how it turns my inside upon themselves until I am left with nothing but flailing hands and a high-pitched voice. The hook got in me so deep that I might die if I don’t rip it out myself with my bare hands.

So I do. I rip it out.

Perhaps why that comment got me today. The accuser is being accused? How ironic.

There will always be things that hook us. There will always be a line waiting out there at sea, sometimes so patiently that you forget it might try and kill you as it sits there with a beer and a boat and some sunburn.

Not all the things that hook us kill us. But they fester. I got hooked by a teacher who was way older than me and who had OCD and was bald. I was 19 or 20. I ate puffed air in class and sucked on it for long periods of time so it would last me longer as he talked about Thomas Hardy and here I am writing about him almost 20 years later. He hooked me.

What kills us are the hooks we let kill us. The hooks we let dig deeper and deeper into our flesh until they are part of us and we can’t remember where we began and where we end, we can’t tell the difference between our heart and a crappy piece of metal.

I want to choose more of the things that hook me. I am not a fish. I get some say in the matter.

Let go or be dragged.

common_carp

let-go-or-be-dragged

 

Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer living on an airplane. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, among others. She’s the founder of The Manifest-Station. Jen’s leading a weekend retreat in May to Ojai, Calif as well as 4 day retreat over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif. She and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up is Seattle in May and London July 6. (London sells out fast so book soon if you plan on attending!)

healing, loss, my book, Things I Have Lost Along The Way

Chicken Bones In The Throat.

November 9, 2012

The things that get lodged in us.

Those that need dislodging like a chicken bone in the throat.

How some things get stuck. And others, not so much. Other things in their own river-like way flow through us and by us and if it weren’t for a photograph we might forget them completely. (My 20’s! Certain men I’ve dated! 7th grade! Books I have loved and forgotten.)

Things that get stuck: certain sentences and the way someone looks at you, the beat of a song whose words have long since vanished, the way it felt to be young, how your father died.

Last night as I was working on my book I called my mom to ask her some questions about my dad and how he died. I wanted to know precisely the cause of death and which drugs he took and exactly how many cigarretes he smoked a day. I wanted the facts as if the facts can turn into something soft and malleable, as if they can change if you hear them enough. They do, don’t they?

I thought my dad died of a heart attack until one day when I was 13 my mom told me that he’d had a stroke. From 13 until last night I’d thought he’d had a stroke. My mom said last night that it was not a stroke at all. Oh, the confusion. How did he die, dammit? I need to know exactly what went down on that night in July, 1983.

So Mom says it was this mouthful of ugly words: Atherosclerotic Coronary Artery Disease.

Which is caused by blockages which can be caused by the unfathomable amount of cigarretes he smoked daily or the speed he took. Same thing Whitney Houston died of.

Then Mom tells me this bit of news which is now forever stuck and will not be dislodged. Ever. She told me that the hospital had told her he had vomited and choked on his own vomit and that was how he died. Offical autoposy said, however, Atherosclerotic Coronary Artery Disease.

I want to unhear this.

Is it possible to do this? I, of all people, should be entitled to this gift with my profound hearing loss. It must be how my friend Emily Rapp felt when the doctors told her that her son Ronan had Tay Sachs Disease and would die.

It’s a mistake! This shouldn’t be! This was an accident. This wasn’t any “meant to be” bulllshit yogis are so fond of saying. The way I see it, this was a f*ck up.

Just whose f*ck up, I am not sure, nor do I want to guess, but it was definitely some kind of mix-up. I mean, choking on vomit and dying? How can this be fair at all? One minute you are in your bed watching an episode of M*A*S*H on tv and the next your are drowing in your own bodily fluids? In what world can this happen?

How can death be that easy when life isn’t? 

To dislodge means to leave a place previously occupied. This is what happens with death.  (I imagine.) You dislodge yourself from your body. And that’s that. If it weren’t for the things that stuck, things like your smell, or rather the smell of an old leather wallet and how it has become your smell, and your sheep’s laugh, that high cackle and how it would run around the room before it landed back in your throat. Other things that stuck: the song You Are My Sunshine keeps you here, maybe not in body but certainly in heart because that’s where the pain is when the song is heard, no matter when or where. That rusty dagger is stuck in the heart since you used to sing that song every night, and maybe that isn’t a bad thing because certainly some things need to get stuck in us or we might forget who we were.

I asked my mom to send me an email with all the facts she could remember being that most of mine are old and broken down having been told so many times since I was eight years old that they lost their functionality sometime around 1990-91.

Another sentence that stuck:

He used up his body.

How can I make that sentence go away? What is behind the sentence is more what I want to go away and that is the reality that my father used up his body in a way that suggested that the novelty of it was over, that the use of it was no longer needed, that in essence it was worth nothing. That it was trash. What else do you think of when you hear those words, which are nothing short of true: he used up his body. Depleted. Bankrupt. Drained. Empty.

So things get stuck in me. Maybe because I am a little bit obsessive. But aren’t we all?

What gets stuck are the things that shock me back into breathing, that slap me in the face until I realize this fact: It could be me.

How easy it is to do really. To let yourself slip.

No, maybe you don’t smoke and maybe you don’t do any drugs but maybe you talk to yourself in such a way that it chips at you day after day until there is nothing left. Until you are used up.

Maybe the things that get stuck are there so we pay closer attention to the facts. Had my father, I doubt he would have killed himself. Oh, you think he didn’t kill himself in some way? Look closer.

I revise my earlier statement about wanting to dislodge these things. I will never be able to unstick these thing and that is fine. You want to know why? Because I am writing a book and my greatest wish is for at the very least a few things to be stuck so I can remember long enough to get them on paper.

Secondly: some things must always be stuck in me so I remember that I am not unfailing. As painful as some things are and as much as we want them to not have happened, they did. They will always have happened.

They existed somewhere in the world, in some space time continuum, and they are some small molecule of us, even if they happened to our ancestors before our birth. The way we react to the world is in drect relation to the stuck things within us.

The way we listen to a song. The way we fall in love. The way we look at our children. If we even have children.

All of it.

The stuck things make us who we are. They help us remember where we have been.

by Jenni Young of course

Little Seal, MindBodyGreen

4 Things I Learned From a Two Year Old Who Is Dying.

September 19, 2012

My latest is up on MindBodyGreen. Please take a moment and read it. Leave comments there and not here please. Love you guys xo jen

Here is an excerpt…

 

1) How to be present

Ronan just is. He sits there in his stroller or propped up on his pillows and simply soaks up the energy of the room, a big baby sponge who sometimes has choking fits and seizures. He doesn’t ask for much. He knows when his mom is near. He knows when love is present. He knows when he needs to be fed. You feel silly when you find yourself worrying about the “what if’s” of life when you are in his presence, like he is some baby Buddha who has all the answers. He understands what it means to be still and also to have no expectations. He is present for his life in a way that is at once disarming and beautiful.

2) How to love

The love you feel for this child is impossible. Can’t you feel it, even having never met him? What if we let ourselves love in this way more often? Without any expectations, without regret, with only the here and the now and the open-hearted abandon that comes with knowing how fast the clock is ticking… how each kiss on his soft little face could be the last?

 

Continue reading by clicking here.

Hearing Loss, loss, my book

Investigating Loneliness.

September 16, 2012

I was in a yoga class a couple weeks ago, and my teacher, Annie Carpenter, kept using the word investigate to cue us in the poses.

Investigate the backbend.

I liked the idea of being a detective when it came to my backbend, to the way my foot felt on the mat. I liked the way this verb felt in me, the way it rolled around and ended up in so many different landscapes. I planted the seed of investigation and what came up out of the earth of me was:

Investigating loneliness.

The old couple that lived next door to us for years in New Jersey, Kay and Jerry and how she got hit by a car in front of the church across the street and never came back from the hospital, staying there for months before she finally died of some complication. How he died of loneliness. How I think it must not be that hard. I’m investigating that.

Sometimes I sit in my apartment and get stuck there. Literally stuck. The quicksand of my desk chair. The sinking mud of my bathroom mirror.

The phone rings and the texts come in, the emails. All of it with its own little rythym of relevance: Pick me up! Answer me! Call me back! Go here! You should do that! I stare at it them like little soldiers, these little missives and misfits and messages and patiently wait for it all to stop. Mesmerized by my ability to want to turn it all off, to make my nearly deaf ears a little more hushed. Noiseless as shock, I sit at my desk or in my bed and wrap myself in a feeling close to nothing.

What is this feeling? I have so many things to be done, so many people to call back, so many things I have let slip between the cracks of my mind and yet I can’t move.

Everyone is laughing and I might join is so as not to look stupid but I have no idea what they are laughing about, their muted laughs frogs in throats. I might as well be floating on a piece of bark at sea with nothing but the clothes on my back and my thoughts to keep me from drowning. I have no idea what you are laughing at! I scream in my head as I laugh along, my hearing loss incapable of disguise. That feeling of laughing when you have no idea why everyone is laughing, that’s a kind of loneliness I want to tell you about also.

How can you feel lonely when you have so many friends, when you are always around people? I imagine on my computer screen after this blog post, being sent in an email from someone feeling sympathetic somewhere. On the bottom, in the comment section below, platitudes like: You are never truly alone!  You may feel lonely but you are never alone! You are so loved.

I was in Santa Fe a couple weeks ago eating at Pasquals with my friends, the writers Emily Rapp and Chris Abani. We were chatting about the difference between sympathy and empathy. Emily’s baby is dying so these types of conversations are normal over Huevos motuleños. (This dish includes banana on top of eggs and while at first I thought the idea horrifying, I came around once I tasted Emily’s.)

Chris and Emily were saying that with sympathy people make it about themselves. Whereas empathy is truly about you, whoever you are. Makes sense. I agreed. That’s why sympathy doesn’t feel authentic, why it’s rejected like a banana on an egg. I don’t want sympathy.

I want a: Yea! Hey, I know what you mean. I have felt that as well. I get it. I understand.

That’s it. Enough said.

You can’t fix it. There is no fixing. I am investigating all the ways I feel lonely in a crowd,  what it feels like to be amongst the world and also completely not in it at all.

The thing is, I like being alone. I prefer it. I struggle to leave my apartment. I would rather read a book or write than go out and I have been this way since childhood. But much as I am investigating my backbend, I am looking into the intricacies of my aloneness and how it keeps me in my head and what a bloody bad neighborhood that really is.

I just read something by Iyanla Vanzant where she said “Who are you? Is not meant to be a question. It is meant to give pause for reflection. Who are you without whatever you hold on to?”

It is not meant to be a question but rather to give pause.

That’s what I am doing with this particular case, in my detective work, in my investigations. I am giving pause. I am not looking to solve the mystery, per se, but to look without judgement at the areas of my life I have hidden or buried.

I feel lonely often because I can’t hear. It’s a lonely world when you can hear sounds but have no idea what they mean.

So I understand how Jerry died shortly after Kay was hit by the car in front of the church because surely she was the only one who understood his sounds and what they meant.

What I have found in my investigation thus far is this: loneliness is the place we meet our hearts. And we hear our hearts for the first time. The beat slows down, the accelerated beat ceases and there is no panic or sadness or isolation only connection and  a deep knowing that you have waited your whole life for this.

In that moment, The Lonely Ones send their hearts out into the world to love and be loved, and maybe they will get broken, maybe not. But for a few minutes in the life of that heart there is nothing else but other hearts and their is a linking up which if you listen closely to it says the word Finally.


Inspiration, Little Seal, loss, love

The Land of Enchantment.

August 30, 2012

Today we took a road trip.

Me, Emily and Ronan. Ronan, packed in the back, his small floppy head propped up with stuffed animals and socks, his face reflected in a crooked little mirror, so Emily, his mom, could look into it every so often as she drove in case he had a seizure or stopped breathing.

Tay Sachs has its hold on this little boy. This perfect little boy making cooing noises in the back seat as we marvel at trees and patterns of light and talk about what it means to be happy and how even when you are happy you are still a little bit sad.

Or at least I am.

Our first stop after we left Santa Fe: The Chimayo Sanctuario. It was hot when we stepped out of the car, hotter than it has been back in Santa Fe. Gusts of warm wind blowing my dress around in a way that would normally make me laugh and feel sexy and silly but today I immediately felt tired and I wanted to lie down in the little outdoor church area. Growing up as a Jew, at least until I was 8, I didn’t really know what to call that little area but I knew I wanted to lie my head down on it and rest as the people walked by and snapped pictures or prayed. Some smoked cigarettes which felt somehow unholy given the heat.

Emily had told me as we walked that Chimayo was the meth capital of the world. I watched the smokers in front of us and wondered what meth felt like. I didn’t really want to know but we were in the capital and the heat made me tired and curious.

Emily had said that she loved Chimayo and that they had holy dirt there. She had me at holy dirt.

My hearing has been especially horrendous during this trip. As if there are things here that mustn’t be heard. Things  of loss and heat and dirt and dying babies. Most of the things she tells me during this visit I only half-hear so maybe when she says holy dirt she didn’t say that at all.

But there is holy dirt here indeed!

We entered the church and sat in the back. The art on the walls somehow reminded me of my mother so I kept whispering to Emily My mom would love it here. It was vibrant and colorful, somehow simple in it’s poor beauty, and I knew my mom would love the folk art as Emily did. We traced our fingers over the wood carvings and the blue of the pregnant bellies. There were a few old women up front praying, their mouths repeating the same shapes over and over, and although I know now what they were saying, I knew that they were deep in reverie, deep in connection, somehow sitting on the bench and yet also floating somewhere with a dead relative or baby or Jesus himself. Who knows. They were in a trance but also somehow aware of us as we walked by, enough that they smiled with their eyes and part of their lips without stopping the flow of prayer coming from them. It was like a magic trick. I felt weird to stare but I did, for just a moment. I mean, I went in there to pray in some way I suppose, although I didn’t know it until we walked into the door. I didn’t even know what Chimayo was until we got there. But these women were praying with every ounce of their bodies, like they were born to do this and had waited in a long line of life events that included births and deaths to get here. I was just hoping Ronan wouldn’t suffer and that Emily would be okay. I didn’t even have a real prayer. I just quietly looked over at them and then over to the front of the jaw droppingly gorgeous New Mexican church and sent a wish out to the Jesus statue at the front in whatever language I could muster. I think I put my hands together in prayer like I do when I teach yoga and asked him in sign language Please let Ronan feel nothing. Please let Emily feel something. 

We went to the room where the holy dirt was and it clearly said No Pictures, but, naturally, being me, I took a few. I am like a thief when it comes to inspiration. Whether words or images, if I see it and it touches that place where things are born: I must capture it. I took some photos and then Emily went in and scooped up some holy dirt and put it on Ronan’s sweaty head and his little feet where she had painted his toenails a gold glittery color. I went in and did the same. I also took a little baggy of it and put it in my bag for my sister or anyone else who needed holy dirt. Who knows, maybe I needed it?

We went into the Vigil Shop where they sold popsicles and chile and souvenirs. (They even ship chile! the sign out front boasted.)

We agreed, as we stood under a tree for a moment of relief from the sun, that the land felt different here. I felt much like I do in Ojai, California, where I lead many of my yoga retreats. More connected to the land, more inspired and awake, like there was a current running through me that had been asleep for a while but upon stepping in holy dirt was reignited. Like I became a person again after a longtime of forgetting. Chimayo felt sacred in the way that The Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris did in July, when I went to see where Jim Morrison was buried, not because I wanted to but because I was dragged. I went with my childhood babysitter who I had been reunited with after her only son was killed in a drunk driving accident at age 19 last August. It was her greatest wish to see Jim Morrison’s grave. I was annoyed at having to go especially because it was half-raining and I was sick and we got lost, but once we got there it was like nothing else. All the tombs like little houses, each different from the next in the most small beautiful ways. I wanted to lie down on them and see what it felt like, not in morbid way, but rather to be connected to such beauty. Rarely has I seen such beauty associated with death. I felt like that in Chimayo. Far from Paris and Jim Morrison’s grave and Ojai but with the vast knowledge that the holy dirt was the same, that if I tasted it in Paris or California, or if I kneeled down in that little room there today in Chimayo that it would all taste the same. That I would be healed or I wouldn’t but it would be the same. That I wasn’t really so far from beauty, wherever I was in the world at any given moment.

We carried on to Taos and I remembered the first time I had been there. Driving across country with my mother, sister and my best friend at the time. I remember eating tuna fish from a can in the back seat and alternating drivers. I remember the colors in New Mexico being so different from what I knew, both growing up both in New Jersey and California. Today in Taos I had a flood of memories, which is good because I am writing a book, but I kept having to shake them off to be present for Ronan. What if this the the last time I see him? 

Emily says maybe it will be. Maybe not. No expectations is what she is working on. No expectations of what his death will be like, whether or not she should travel to Germany for a week in October (because it could as easily happen while she is teaching or at the store), no expectations of what life will be like after.

As we sat in the chapel Emily told me of the pilgrimage people make to come to Chimayo, the last mile or two on their hands and knees so they arrived bloody to the church for their penance. I was in disbelief that people still did this sort of thing but also in awe at the sheer will and belief in what was possible, in miracles and magic and holy dirt.

There were children’s shoes and booties everywhere, left as offerings, which made me feel sad as I sat there with Ronan because he would never wear shoes to walk or run or to look cool for a girl on a first date.

He would never walk or crawl on his hands and knees to make a pilgrimage.

That’s when I decided that I would make one for him. That actually that is what we were doing today out there in the hot New Mexican sun as we walked on bridges and stood in churches and sat in cars.

That here we were eating holy dirt and driving through The Rio Grande Gorge as we listened to bad music through an iPad. That we sang it out loud badly, and it was all for him. It was all so we could keep giving him these particular pieces of ourselves, these grains of holy dirt to take with him wherever it was he was going.

 

courage, manifesting

Say Yes.

July 24, 2012

The theme of this week is: Saying Yes.

photo of Bryant McGill and daughters… Sierra & Savannah by Jenni Young Creatives using my words. YES! Click to connect with Jenni.

 

This morning in class I asked everyone to write down on sticky notes what they were going to say Yes to today. Here are some of their responses.

Some of the YES notes my class wrote this morning. They put them over their hearts during Savasana. Very powerful stuff.

I shared this poem last night in my class because I have fallen absolutely in love with it.

God Says Yes To Me by Kaylin Haught

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic

and she said yes

I asked her if it was okay to be short

and she said it sure is

I asked her if I could wear nail polish

or not wear nail polish

and she said honey

she calls me that sometimes

she said you can do just exactly

what you want to

Thanks God I said

And is it even okay if I don’t paragraph

my letters

Sweetcakes God said

who knows where she picked that up

what I’m telling you is

Yes Yes Yes

~~~~~

I have found that sometimes saying Yes is complicated and rough around the edges but then I remember that so is my life, so I keep saying yes, even when every bone in my body whispers No you mustn’t expect any more miracles. My life has never been a neatly organized drawer or a perfect day for sailing, yet I have gone sailing anyway and gotten capsized and sunburnt but here I am still.  Nor has my life ever been what I thought it would be when I looked out from the vantage point of childhood, from the top a staircase in New Jersey all the way down into my teens, and 20’s, my 30’s. Never got past the 30’s. Most likely because my father died at 38 and in my child mind that was the end of life as we knew it.

Sometimes saying yes means saying no and as cliche as that sounds, you must believe me when I tell you: You have to say no sometimes.

To that tea, or lunch, or picking up that shift, or the wedding or whatever it is that is yelling at us in every language NO and yet what comes out of our mouth is a half-hearted Yes.

Here I am sick after 3 weeks partly because I say yes to too much.

And my saying yes to too much is not really a saying yes (it’s getting convoluted here) but it is my fear of: They won’t like me if I say no, I will let them down, If I don’t say yes to this job then there won’t be anymore… And on and on.

Saying yes to your life means saying yes to what makes you come alive. Saying yes to the things you want to do even if you are terrified, especially if you are terrified. Saying yes to who you really are, which is buried under the layer of No’s and years of standing still.

Today I am saying yes to the knowing that I can have it all; I can travel and write and teach and be exactly who I want to be. I am saying yes to the things I am afraid of, I am saying yes to cleaning out my car and getting organized so that when I get pulled over by a cop, as I did this morning, I can actually find my registration card instead of  getting a ticket for not having it. I am saying yes to my life, with all it’s parts and needs for oil changes and tune-ups. I am saying yes to reading more, to move Movable Feasts, to more trips to Paris, Yes to leading more retreats around the world for the rest of my life. Yes to writing my best-selling book. Yes to inspiring millions. Because that is what I want to do.

Why should I not say yes to what I want to and to who I am?

This morning I asked my class to start to pay attention to when they stop having fun in life. One of the main tenets of my yoga classes is that you must have a sense of humor.

Start to say yes more to your life.

That’s not to say that bad things won’t happen, that my friend Emily Rapp’s baby boy isn’t dying, that some things just suck and are really really unfair.

But in the meantime, with compassion in our hearts for all of those who are rammed up against a big fat No, let’s keep saying Yes.

Please tell me below what you are saying Yes to today.

Tweet me #YES by clicking here.

Click photo to tweet me #YES

Beating Fear with a Stick, Birthday

Bucket List

December 3, 2011

I know.

Bucket List sounds like that movie. The one a few years ago with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman that you probably saw on an airplane. And it has connotations of dying.

But that’s not what I am talking about here.

At least not for me.

This post is a LIFE LETTER. A LIFE LIST. A I-am-living-this-year-and-every-year-as-if-it-is-my-last-list.

My father died at 38 years old when I was 8.

It sucked. It sill sucks. Still makes me sad but I manage to get through it by writing and laughing and teaching and doing yoga and letting myself experience what I need to daily without judgement.

Naturally, even though it was on a subconscious level,  I assumed people died at 38. I don’t think I was aware I even had this belief. But, on a cellular level, somewhere deep in the most Jennifer parts of Jennifer, I simply vanished after 37 years of age. In my imagination. I could not, for the “life” of me, visualize a future for myself.

It gave me anxiety to think about.

I have never been much of a planner. This will come as a surprise to those that know me these days, as every day is booked and I have to plan out even a year in advance for most things. I definitely didn’t get delivered from the Stork in this fashion.

Planning scared the bejesus out of me especially when it came to the future. My future.

When we are children our world revolves around us little people. It should be that way. When my father died, on some level I thought it was my fault. I was 8. It’s what we do. Just as some kids think it is their fault when their parents divorce. It’s common. It’s expected when you’re a young whippersnapper to be the center of the Universe. You are.

It’s also common to form your inherent beliefs of yourself and the world at that young age. This is fine and good, except when it isn’t.

Case in point: your father dies at age 38 and you assume that is when life ends in general.

And here I am, Dear Manifesters, about to turn 37. I’ve made it pretty far, I’d say.

So this year, the year between 37 and 38 is to be filled with life. Since my father’s life ended at 38, I am going to enter my 38th year with the most BAM and the most LIFE.

Here is my letter.

Dear Age 37,

I am very excited to meet you! I can hardly wait.

I didn’t think I would be. For a long time, up until recently even, I would lie about my age. Mainly because I was an actor, and well, that is what actors do. But I think I also lied because I was scared about getting older. My dad never got to get older, so I falsely assumed that was to be my lot in life too.

Things have changed for me in the last few years and somewhere along the way I have lost that fear. My life has gotten better and better, and in fact, you couldn’t pay me enough to go back to my 20’s. Not that you offered. I’m just saying. I am happy here. Now.

This next year will be very powerful and I just wanted to let you know I am glad you are here. I already love you very much. 

We are going to travel around the world together. We are writing a book. We are going on Good Morning America. We are teaching workshops all over the world. We are laughing more than we ever thought possible. We are thinking about having a baby soon. We will probably wait until 38 gets there though. So don’t go starting any rumors.

I know your cousins “Ages 17-31” don’t think I liked them very much because of the way I treated them. I doubt you will ever see them again, but if you do, could you apologize for me? I don’t want to go back and tell them myself, but I truly am sorry I didn’t appreciate them as I appreciate you.

You Dear 37, look so much better than I imagined you to look. I am really proud of you.

Anyway, we have 10 days until you arrive but i just wanted you to know that you are very welcome in these parts.

Oh, and one last thing. Buckle your seatbelt. It’s going to be one helluva ride! See you on December 12th!

Love, me xo 

So my “Bucket List” isn’t a list of things I will do before I kick the bucket. It is a list of things I do before I turn 38 when my dad passed and I mistakenly assumed, as child, that life ended. I am living this year as a testament to my father. As a loving memory and a G-damn party in his honor. He may not have gotten past 38 but I am making it up for him. Daily.

Watch out world.

PS, All I want for my birthday is for you to buy a Manifestation t-shirt. All money is going to charity! I am committed to finding a cure for Prader Willi Syndrome and Tay Sachs. Here is the link. Help me have a happy birthday by giving back. 

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO OWN A MANIFESTATION TEE? https://manifestationyoga.com/what-does-it-mean-to-own-a-manifestaion-t-shirt/

Guest Posts, Little Seal

Closing the Exit Door. Guest Post by Emily Rapp.

November 20, 2011
The following guest post is by my favorite writer and dear friend, Emily Rapp. Many of you know her already because I talk about her endlessly. Some of you may even follow her own blog Little Seal.  Emily is a great source of inspiration and love for me. I urge you to take the time and read her words. Also, my Manifestation t-shirts are an effort to raise money for Tay Sachs, as well as Prader Willi Research. It is my greatest honor to introduce you, Dear Manifesters, to the brilliant and gorgeous Emily Rapp.

Closing the Exit Door by Emily Rapp

When I first learned that my son, Ronan, would die before he turned four years old of a rare, progressive neurological disease called Tay-Sachs, I felt too sad to live. I thought I cannot stay awake.

I thought I want to die.

All of the self-destructive coping mechanisms I had relied on in the past – binge drinking, starving, extreme exercise, overworking, impulse shopping – were no longer any use to me. There was no place to go where I did not feel pain. There was no method of transformation available to me, which is another way of saying that there was no exit door. For several months grief became my life, and for the rest of my life grief will be a major player in it.

How do people survive a world when every step forward feels like dropping through a trap door? Some people don’t.

In 1944 my grandfather, a man from whom I inherited my red hair and many other traits (I’m told), shot himself with a rifle in a hot barn. Nobody knows the full story; nobody knows why. Was it depression, addiction, or a combination of these? Did the same fate await me, the recipient of at least some of his genetics? He was a unique man in a unique position in a unique period of time: an Irish Catholic father of two who, if he had asked for help for his depression or addiction or other problem, would have had limited resources. Depending on what he needed he may have been judged harshly by his conservative rural community, maybe even been outcast. The fact that my grandfather took his life makes me much more likely (if you believe in statistics) to do the same. I understood this in the first thunderous days after Ronan’s diagnosis, and I was afraid.

I understood the deepest shadow side of myself.

But when I looked at my fear straight on, a strategy I learned, in part, from yoga, I found something I hadn’t expected – not an exit, but an entrance.

When I looked into the fire of my grief and despair, and then sat down in it, then got familiar with it (tasting, touching, breathing, smelling, eating it) I found a new coping mechanism – my vocation as a writer – to be the only one that offered any assistance, any help at all. I couldn’t have been more surprised. Up to that point, most of my life as a writer consisted of procrastination, spurts of inspiration, cross country trips to residencies where I spent the bulk of my time “getting settled in my new environment,” racing to meet deadlines, and hours and hours logged at coffee shops in Austin, Texas and Provincetown, Massachusetts, and then West L.A., staring at a painfully white screen and longing to write while simultaneously wishing I’d already written whatever it is I was attempting to write. Not anymore. Writing became (and perhaps it always was) a compulsion, a necessary ritual fueled by a desire as strong as wanting that next drink, that next award, that next expensive sweater, that next (and even lower) number on the bathroom scale, only instead of tearing my world down to its most destructive components, it made my world huge, massive, much bigger than I ever thought it could be. I wrote a book about my son to keep me in the world, and I’m still doing it. Writing closed that particular exit door. It kept me in the room of my life.

I try to imagine myself, years from now, without my son, and I try to envision what I want that life to look like: chaotic, filled with dogs and children and books and good food and cheap wine and brilliant friends and travel and hours of contemplative thinking time. Space. Room. Joy. Light. A life of the mind; a state of the heart.

Some may believe this is heartless or cruel, to fast-forward to my life without Ronan, to try and manifest a vision of this happiness, but without this future-directed act of manifestation, an activity I’ve learned much about from Jen’s yoga classes and from her presence in my life, I couldn’t imagine and I couldn’t write, and if I couldn’t write I couldn’t live. Without the hint of this promise, we look to our lives and see only ways out, doors to the outside, an overabundance of possible exits.

Yoga teaches us that we are both limited and enhanced by our desires, and the energy behind them can serve you – through breath, meditation, mindfulness. Sitting in a room with other people, moving and making shapes with the body is a kind of magic, but it’s also a kind of meditation, manifestation, a kind of necessary work that can last throughout your life and also help you live it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I hope you will all consider buying a t-shirt or spreading the word about them in an effort to raise money for research and to help with any costs Ronan many need.

Order one here. https://www.jenniferpastiloff.com/PayPal.html

Manifesting Your Life,

One Laugh at a Time,

Jen (JenPastiloff on Twitter)